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What to eat before that early morning game

By, 10/10/19, 9:30AM EDT



Soccer players sometimes have to train or compete early in the morning. Some players may need to practice at 7:00 AM in the morning if that’s when the soccer venue is open or the time when all players have available.

Players on a competitive / traveling youth soccer team might need to get up at 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM to get to an 8:00 AM tournament.

My stomach isn’t awake … It’s too early to even think about food. …

Other players report they have better workouts when they eat something simple, like an energy bar.

In a study with athletes who hadn’t eaten for 12 hours after dinner, those who ate 180 calories (sugar) just five minutes before an hour-long exercise test performed 10% better in the last 15-minute sprint compared to when they ate nothing (2).

Because soccer is a stop-and-start activity, you can still digest pre-exercise food, but maybe at a slower pace.

Consuming some food and fluid on your way to the soccer venue will enhance your workout—assuming you have trained your gut to tolerate the food and fluids.

If you are worried about intestinal distress, start small (a graham cracker) and work up to more graham crackers.

For workouts longer than 60 minutes, the recommended intake is about 200 to 400 calories within the hour before you train. That recommendation obviously varies according to body size, exercise intensity and duration, and personal tolerance to food.

If you have been exercising on empty, you will likely discover you can now exercise harder, feel better, and get more enjoyment from your workouts.

early morning options

Here are some options for fueling your early morning workouts so you are adequately hydrated and fueled.

Eat a quick and easy snack with about 200 to 400 calories (depending on your body size and workout intensity).

Some popular options include: English muffin, toast, bagel or banana (with peanut butter); oatmeal, a smoothie, Fig Newtons, or granola bar. Coffee is OK; it’s a functional fluid that boosts performance and yes, helps with hydration.

Wake up 4 hours before important games or soccer events, eat a simple breakfast (bread + a nut butter), and then go back to bed.

This is a common practice among elite athletes.

As one athlete explained, “I don’t want to have food in my stomach when I’m competing. If the event starts at 8:00 a.m., I’ll get up at 4:00, eat a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, and then go back to bed. At 6:00, I’ll get up, have some coffee (to help me take a dump and wake me up), and then get to the event. Because I never really sleep well the night before an event, getting up at 4:00 isn’t terribly disruptive.”

In comparison, another athlete reported she used to wake up two hours before practice to eat. She became very sleep-deprived and decided she needed sleep more than eat. She started eating a bigger bedtime snack.

Eat your breakfast the night before via a bedtime snack, such as a bowl of cereal, or yogurt with granola. If you have dinner at 6:00, you’ll be ready for a bedtime snack by 9:00.


Fuel during your workout. If your stomach isn’t awake when you first get up, it may be receptive to fuel when you are 30 minutes into your soccer practice. Be sure you have some fuel with you: sport drink, dried pineapple, gels, chomps, gummy bears—whatever is easy to carry and simple to digest.

You want to target about 30 to 60 grams carb (120 to 240 calories) if the workout lasts 1 to 2.5 hours, and 60 to 90 g carb (240 to 360 calories) if the workout is longer than that.

about the author

Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD has a private practice in the Boston-area, where she helps both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes create winning food plans. Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and Food Guide for Soccer, as well as teaching materials, are available at

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